By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
An ex-congressman with past ties to a Muslim extremist group has launched a second try for a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania.
Then-Congressman Joe Sestak lost a close 2010 Senate race to Pat Toomey, in a race that included a controversy over Sestak’s relationship with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). A former admiral in the U.S. Navy, Sestak hired a CAIR leader to run his Washington Congressional office and soon thereafter agreed to serve as the keynote speaker for an April 2007 CAIR fundraising dinner in Philadelphia.
Sestak’s ties to CAIR became a significant issue in the 2010 campaign, in a mid-term election year otherwise largely dominated by domestic politics. The 2016 election cycle is likely to focus much more heavily on foreign affairs and national security issues.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR was “founded [in 1994] by leaders of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a Hamas affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization.” (The IAP has been characterized by the U.S. government as part of “Hamas’ propaganda apparatus.”)
The ADL’s web site reveals that some CAIR leaders have also been active in another “Hamas-linked anti-Semitic propaganda organization” called the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR). The Virginia-based UASR was established by Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzuq in 1989. Mohamed Nimer, CAIR’s director of research from 1995 to 2007, previously worked for the UASR and even spent a month in Lebanon in a camp of Hamas deportees from Israel.
Nimer is not the only prominent CAIR activist with links to the UASR. CAIR board member Caroline Keeble (also known as Anisa Abd el Fattah) has served as the USAR’s president and director of public relations and media affairs. CAIR vice chairman Nabil Sadoun was deported from the U.S. in 2010 because he failed to disclose his connections to the USAR when he immigrated to the United States.
As if to demonstrate its determination to associate with anti-Semites, on October 8, 2010, right smack in the middle of the Sestak-Toomey race, CAIR presented its “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Helen Thomas at its annual dinner–right after Thomas sparked a nationwide uproar over her assertion that all Jews in Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go back to Germany, Poland, or America.” President Barack Obama was among those who said at the time that Thomas should resign.
The ADL has also found that CAIR has a long record of making sympathetic statements about anti-Israel terrorist groups and terrorist attacks. In a March 1994 panel discussion at Barry University in Florida, CAIR executive director Nihad Awad said: “I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO.” Ghazi Kankan, executive director of CAIR’s New York told the Jewish Week (Oct. 12, 2001) that, like Hamas, he considers all Israelis over the age of 18 to be “military” because “they are all reserves”–making them, in his eyes, legitimate targets. Speakers at CAIR rallies have frequently praised Hamas and Hezbollah, and participants in the rallies have waved placards endorsing those terror groups.
CAIR’s sympathy for terrorists has moved beyond mere rhetoric, the ADL points out. During the trial in Texas of the Holy Land Foundation for supporting Hamas, statement “evidence was produced by the Federal prosecutors demonstrating that CAIR and its founders were part of a group set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas.” One of the defendants was the founder of CAIR’s Dallas chapter, Ghassan Elashi, who was convicted and sentenced to 65 years in prison.
CAIR communications specialist and civil rights coordinator Randall Royer is serving a 20-year jail term for his involvement with the Islamic terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba. That’s the group responsible for the heinous attack on the Jewish center in India last year, in which a rabbi and his wife were tortured and murdered. And CAIR fundraiser Rabih Haddad was deported from the United States after being arrested on terrorism-related charges.
All of this information was available at the time of Joe Sestak’s 2010 campaign, yet none of it moved him to condemn CAIR. If asked about it today, he would no doubt dismiss it all as “old news.”
But there has been a very recent development that makes the issue very relevant in his new campaign for the senate. On November 15, 2014, the government of the United Arab Emirates announced that it was adding CAIR to its official list of terrorist organizations.
One does not need to be an actual bomb-thrower to be put on the UAE’s list. It includes groups that engage in “incitement or funding” of terrorists. Based on CAIR’s history, including the many connections between CAIR leaders and terrorists such as Hamas, the UAE has good reason for its concerns.
Despite what the Sestak campaign may think, this issue is not going away so quickly. At a time when the Free World is engaged in a life-or-death struggle against Islamist terror, it should expect voters to keep asking about it, unless and until Sestak denounces CAIR, unequivocally, once and for all.
[Moshe Phillips is president and Benyamin Korn is chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia, and both are candidates on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.]